[Marxism] Re: What is the function of a revolutionary party?

Tony Abdo gojack10 at hotmail.com
Tue Aug 24 09:04:48 MDT 2004

Ok, Mark and Lou, let's take a look at this hokey analogy about the need to 
walk and chew gum at the same time if you want to build a revolutionary 

Mark wrote..
<<The question came up about what a revolutionary group should be doing in
the here-and-now, not just about the past monumental errors of the
Barnes leadership of the SWP.  Actually, anyone can read what you wrote
and what I asked as decide where the straw was, Tony.  The point is taken, 
though, that you're not approaching the matter in a delusional way but are 
approaching seriously what the delusional
leadership of the SWP did.>>

I would say that this discussion is about much more than the today's now 
delusional SWP.  It is about program, and what to make the most crucial 
point in a US-based party's political work.

<<We agree that the primary focus should be
antiwar when you're in the midst of one of these ventures overseas.  I
think we also agree that is not just a question of defending people
overseas but of defending the well-being of your own workers at home.>>

Notice that I did not limit the revolutionary party's antiwar work to being 
key only "when you're in the midst of one of these ventures overseas", Mark. 
  You did, and I think that that is most telling, for you see the antiwar 
movement as only being needed to be built, in episopic and temporary 
fashion.  This, in the heart of a world empire that runs the affairs of the 
entire planet, and is destroying the ecology of the entire planet, too!  And 
with a military in multiple locales constantly and all at one time.

<<However, the ability of the SWP to separate these things was well
established--even before its turn to industry.  Those of us who had long
urged an SWP turn to the working class were convinced rather early that
the party would have real trouble understanding what we were even
saying.  When a turn was proposed in 1971 or 1973-74, they responded
that we couldn't abandon the antiwar movement.  That wasn't what was
being proposed.  Most of us thought it was simply an inability to debate
honestly--and there was some of that--but the problem was far more

Actually, what was being proposed was that the SWP no longer make the 
antiwar movement and women's movement their central political centers for 
interventionism, but rather that the party concentrate in talking it up at 
the work place about with what were seen as the true blue 'class issues'.  
And that it return to Left trade unionism as the key element of party 

<<We assumed that the party could walk and chew gum at the same time.>>

And what you ignored, was simply that the party was already doing more than 
just 'walking', but also was juggling and skipping while whistling Dixie at 
the same time.  To this you guys proposed that chewiong gum with the 
industrial woikers was the biggest issue.  And that it was dereliction of 
revolutionary program that it wasn't the big activity.

<<As it was strolling along in the antiwar movement, we offered it some gum
and it refused angrily, insisting that it was busy walking.  In fact, it
began purging us.  By then, though, we understood that the problem was
far bigger than we thought.>>

Yes it was. Thought the grnadness of the problem had little to do with your 
fetish about chewing gum with woikers at the factory.

<<Thereafter, when circumstances in Vietnam meant the war would be ending,
it announced that it was going to turn to industry.  You're complaining
that it sat down at that point in order to chew its gum.>>

You are absolutely right, Mark.  When one's program wins victories, it is 
stupid to try to do the opposite of what was woking to the greatest extent.  
The party leadership that stupidly expelled you guys became disoriented by 
its success (which it never truly beleived possible), and then began to have 
delusions of grandeur about chewing gum, walking, singing Dixie, juggling, 
and skipping... all at one single time.

You guys had even convinced them that chewing gum was some sort of key 
activity,rather than walking!  What happened then?  Well the SWP tripped. It 
was trying to do everything at once, and began to mainly concentrate on gum 
chewing. It even had impressed itself at how well it was able to blow 
bubbles with its gum, as it headed headfirst into the dirt!.  The SWP 
stumbled, and now sleeps next to Iraq like Rip Van Winkle.

<<Let's agree that the first attribute of a health organization is an
ability to walk and chew gum at the same time.  ML>>

Why sure, but why can't we skip, sing a tune, hum, yodel and fart all at one 
time, too?  Oh!  And of course, walk.....  We can have it all, can we?

I used to buy this analogy of walking and chewing gum at one time being what 
we should be doing.  Instead, I now think that we are an international 
movement, and that we need to make the international working class the focus 
of our work, and not the national one.  It's because so much of our national 
working class opposes the international working class's interests.  I will 
stop here for now.  But I do not think that this analogy raised about how we 
should be able to do things equally at the same time holds much substance or 
usefullness.  Focus is something that leadership needs to know how to do.

Tony Abdo

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